Collective Statement from Student Leaders

We are student leaders who represent and support Black, Indigenous, and other students of color at Berkeley Law. Together, we build community, convene regularly to voice our concerns and exchange guidance, and advocate for our collective interests under the firm belief that progress for one of us does not mean anything without progress for all of us.

Uncompensated, we do this work out of love for our communities and to maintain a pipeline for students of color seeking to enter a notoriously exclusionary profession. As the pandemic, political unrest, and anti-Black police violence have laid bare, our communities are the first to be severely impacted in times of crisis. This climate has made our organizations a more important resource for our students, as we navigate more challenges than ever before. Because we care about the Berkeley Law community, we work toward making our school a place where all students can thrive.

Still, while we recognize Berkeley Law’s desire to put racial justice at the forefront of its public image, we believe publishing this webpage without acknowledging the ongoing struggles from students of color within this institution is disingenuous. By naming here Berkeley Law’s failure to engage fully with institutional issues of equity, inclusion, and justice, we hope to provide insight into how Berkeley must improve to meet its stated commitment to these values.

Specifically, this administration has defended the intellectual acceptability of white supremacist views citing First Amendment arguments, refused to compensate students of color leading affinity organizations while leveraging their diversity for institutional clout, continued to employ an inflammatory defender of torture in an active teaching role, and has failed to condemn or acknowledge Berkeley’s lack of compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Many of the initiatives students advocate for are continually met with adamant resistance from Dean Chemerinsky and/or the Berkeley Law administration/faculty. Just this year, students have advocated to defund the University of California Police Department and implement Native land acknowledgments in the classroom, among other initiatives. We continue to advocate for changes despite pushback.

On this website, you will find snapshots of just some of our work toward achieving a more equitable law school for all students. We will continue to push for institutional improvements, in the hope that future students will be able to enjoy them.

We encourage prospective students to email our student organizations with questions about any of the above stated goals or regarding our other experiences as Berkeley Law students.

In community,

The Law Students of African Descent (LSAD)
The Womxn of Color Collective (WOCC)
La Alianza – Law Students of Latin American Descent
Pilipinx American Law Society (PALS)
Coalition for Diversity
Middle Eastern & North African Law Students Association (MENALSA)
Native American Law Students Association (NALSA)
Berkeley Law Muslim Law Student Association (BLMSA)
South Asian Law Student Association (SALSA)
Asian Pacific Law Student Association (APALSA)

Statement from Dean Erwin Chemerinsky

As I have expressed elsewhere on this website, its goal is to pull together the many things happening at Berkeley Law as we try to be an anti-racist institution and to advance racial justice. There is an enormous amount that remains to be done in this institution and in our society.

I am deeply grateful to the leaders of student affinity groups for all they do to help our students and make Berkeley Law a better place. The leaders of some of these affinity groups asked to post a statement on this website and I immediately agreed that we would post anything they wrote.

But there is one part of their statement that requires response. In their letter they wrote: “Specifically, this administration has defended the intellectual acceptability of white supremacist views citing First Amendment arguments, refused to compensate students of color leading affinity organizations while leveraging their diversity for institutional clout, continued to employ an inflammatory defender of torture in an active teaching role, and has failed to condemn or acknowledge Berkeley’s lack of compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.”

Each of these statements warrants a brief reply. First, neither I, nor anyone in my administration, ever has defended the “intellectual acceptability” of white supremacist views. I, of course, find white supremacist views abhorrent and totally unacceptable. I recognize that hateful speakers cause real harm, but the law of the First Amendment is clear that a public university cannot exclude speakers even when their views are deeply offensive. To say that the First Amendment protects the right to express a view in no way endorses the intellectual acceptability of that view.

Second, the Law School does not compensate the leaders of any student groups. I support finding ways to recognize the tremendous hard work of students who lead affinity groups and other organizations. But monetary compensation is not possible. We have over 90 student organizations. We could not compensate leaders of affinity groups without compensating law review editors, moot court boards, or leaders of all student groups.

Third, the professor referred to is a tenured member of the faculty of the University of California. The University Counsel has been clear that there is no legal basis for revoking his tenure based on views he expressed during government service.

Finally, members of the Law faculty are activity involved in ensuring that the campus complies with the Native American Graves Protection Repatriation Act. I strongly support this.

I hope that these matters of disagreement do not obscure our shared mission to improve Berkeley Law and to fight racism here, in the legal system, and in society.

Erwin Chemerinsky